Saint of the Day – St Elzear TOSF (1285-1323) Layman, Member of the Third Order of St Francis, Mystic, miracle-worker, Baron of Ansouis, Count of Ariano, France, Ruler, Diplomat, Military Leader. Born in the Castle of Saint-Jean-de-Robians, near Cabrières-d’Aigues in Provence, southern France, in 1285. He died in Paris, France, on 27 September 1323. Also known as – Eleazarus. Patronages – Tertiaries, Ariano Irpino-Lacedonia, Italy, Diocese of. Additional Memorial – 26 September, commemorated by the Franciscans. together with Blessed Delphine..
Elzear was descended of the ancient and illustrious family of Sabran, in Provence, France. His father, Hermengaud of Sabran, was created Count of Arian (Ariano), in the kingdom of Naples; his mother was Lauduna of Albes, a family no less distinguished for its nobility.
Immediately after his birth, his mother, whose great piety and charity to the poor had procured her the name of “The Good Countess,” taking him in her arms, offered him to God with great fervour, begging that he might never offend his Divine Majesty but, might rather die in his infancy than live ever to be guilty of so dreadful an evil. The child seemed formed from his cradle to piety and virtue; nor could he, by any means, be satisfied if he saw any poor beggar, till he was relieved; for which reason his nurses and governesses were obliged to have their pockets always furnished with bread and small money, in order to give something to every poor person they met when they took him abroad and it was his delight to divide his dinner with poor children.
The first impressions of virtue he received from his mother but these were perfected by his religious uncle, William of Sabran, Abbot of St Victor’s, at Marseilles, under whom he had his education in that Monastery. In his tender age he wore a rough knotty cord, armed with sharp pricks, which galled his flesh, so that it was discovered by blood issuing from the wounds. The Abbot severely chided him for this and some other extraordinary austerities which he practiced, calling him a self-murderer; yet he secretly admired so great fervour in a tender young Lord.
When he had reached the appropriate age, he acceded to the wish of King Charles II of Naples and married Delphine of Glandèves (1284–1358). Upon their wedding night, Delphine advised her new husband that she had taken a private vow of chastity. Even though he had the right in canon law to make her abandon this commitment, Elzear chose to respect her desire to live in virginity and even copied her example in making the same vow. Together they joined the Third Order of Saint Francis.
The Saint was twenty-three years old when, by their deaths, he inherited his father’s honours and estates but these advantages he looked merely upon ,as talents and instruments put into his hands, to be employed for the advancement of piety, the support of justice and the relief and protection of the poor. He moved with his wife from Ansouis to Puimichel for greater solitude and formulated for his servants, rules of conduct that made his household a model of Christian virtue.
In 1309, he went to his new domains in Italy. There he gained by kindness the trust and support of his subjects, who had despised their Norman conquerors. In 1312 he marched to Rome at the head of the army of King Robert of Naples, which was mobilised to aid in expelling the Emperor Henry VII from that City. Returning to Provence after the war, he again set up a household in which piety and faithful practice of the Catholic faith were expected of all the members of his house.
He said one day to Delphine: “I do not think a man on earth can enjoy any pleasure equal to that which I feel in the Holy Communion. It is the greatest delight and comfort of a soul in her earthly pilgrimage, to receive, most frequently, this divine Sacrament.” In prayer he was often favoured with raptures and heavenly graces. By the constant habitual union of his soul with God, he never found any difficulty in keeping it recollected in all places and at all times. He often watched great part of the nights on his knees in prayer.
In 1317 Elzear went to Naples to become the Tutor of Duke Charles, son of King Robert, and later became Charles’ Castellan, when Charles became Vicar General of the Kingdom of Sicily. He was sent as Ambassador to the King of France in 1323 to obtain the hand of Marie of Valois in marriage for Charles, edifying a worldly Court by his heroic virtues. While serving in that post he died, shortly after accomplishing his mission.
His body was returned to his domain and he was buried in the Franciscan habit in the Church of the Friars Minor at Apt, Vaucluse. The decree of his Canonisation was signed by his godson, Pope Urban V and was carried out by his successor, Pope Gregory XI about 1371. Countess Delphine was also Beatified by Pope Urban at that time. Their liturgical feast day, which they share, is celebrated by the Franciscan Third Order on 26 September.